pen and ink, guache, on bristol
11 x 14″
One of the greatest qualities of the South is the wildlife that dwells along its coasts and forests. I grew up in a family that respects, studies, and routinely marvels at the phenomena of diverse plant and animal species. We are also a family that values tradition and history. Therefore, many of our family trips are typically the same, repeated year after year with an unchanged level of excitement. Our family outings always include some didactic exploration of nature and history, as well.
One such trip is to the Edward Ball Wakulla Springs State Park located in Wakulla Springs, Florida. This 6,000 acre wildlife sanctuary is a place that has always seemed to be full of secrets and mysteries. Surrounded by deep forest, spanish moss, and an old historic lodge, it feels as though one has stepped into a time that has long passed (Paleo Indians camped there 12,000 years ago). It is the location of one of the largest fresh water springs in the world, which attracts many different animal species, including the West Indian Manatee.
Boat tours take visitors down the river to observe the alligators, anhingas, grebes, shearwaters, cormorants, herons, turtles, snakes, and a whole slew of other creatures. However, the most popular is usually the manatee.
The last tour guide we had was more of a botanist and less interested in the manatees. He called them “Potatoes” and rushed the boat past them in the water instead of slowing down to let visitors enjoy the sighting. He was more interested in the spider lily up ahead, I am sure.
I remember thinking that this description of the manatee was rather funny. They do look like potatoes bobbing in the water. They are slow, unassuming creatures. They are social, as you will usually find two lazily grazing together. “Sea cow” is another commonly used name that is fitting. I enjoy them because they are peaceful, simple, and non-violent. Their faces look sleepy under the Panhandle’s waters.